After eliminating the buffer zone last month, the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board started discussing Monday which students would be allowed to attend the high school they are currently assigned, even if they live closer to the other school.
Without defining the new boundaries, the board agreed that any students already enrolled at either Hinsdale Central or Hinsdale South would be allowed to continue attending that school until they graduate. That includes students who will be freshmen in August. The debate was about students not yet enrolled in high school.
Board member Keith Chval suggested if a child has an older sibling attending either Central or South, the child could enroll in the same school as long as the sibling is in high school. But if the siblings are four or more years apart and therefore not be in high school at the same time, the younger sibling should attend whichever high school their home address is assigned.
When the school board voted June 18 to dissolve the buffer zone, an area where residents had a choice of enrolling their children at either South of Central, board members proposed that students be assigned to whichever school they live closer. But the board has not yet decided where the school attendance boundaries will be drawn.
The board likely will make exceptions to the proximity guideline for reasons including whether there is a safe walking route to the school and “grandfathering” students into the same school an older sibling attended.
The board asked the superintendent to prepare a list of factors that might be considered in addition to proximity. The board is expected to set criteria for which children will have the right to attend the same school as an older sibling, even if under the new boundaries they no longer live in that school’s attendance areas, during a July 18 meeting at Hinsdale Central. The time of the meeting was not yet set as of Tuesday morning.
There appeared to be agreement that parents should not have children in two different schools at the same time.
“I would not want to see families shuttling between two different schools,” Chval said.
That would be especially difficult when there are parent-teacher conferences and curriculum night, board President Bill Carpenter said.
Board member Kevin Camden said he believes any school age child, even one in first grade, should be allowed to attend the same school as a sibling currently enrolled in high school. But other board members were leaning towards setting a “sunset” provision that would only extend children who are within three grade levels of their older sibling.
So, for example, an eighth-grader in the upcoming school year, who does not have an older sibling in one of the District 86 high schools, would be assigned to a high school next year based on the new boundaries.
Cherri Kowalchuk of Willowbrook, the parent of five children, said she has twins who just graduated Central, a sophomore at Central, a seventh-grader and a third-grader. Kowalchuk said her case may be unusual, but under those guidelines, her youngest child would have to attend a different high school than her four older siblings.
But Kowalchuk acknowledged that by the time her 8-year-old daughter is old enough, she may want to go to the same high school as her friends, rather than the one her siblings attended, if their neighborhood is put within South’s attendance boundaries.
The board is expected to decide on the sunset provision before it decides on where the new boundaries will fall, because some members anticipate the boundaries will be a more difficult decision.
“I don’t want to rush decisions on the boundary lines,” board member Kathleen Hirsman said.
“What factors will go into drawing the boundaries will not be easily digestible, nor should it be,” Camden said.
Some members of the audience said knowing which students will be grandfathered in to the existing school attendance areas without knowing where the new boundaries will be does not ease any of their uncertainty or concern.
As the board discussed the various possibilities, Carpenter said, “I feel like this a riddle we’re trying to solve.”
“So do we,” said one member of the audience in the auditorium at Hinsdale Central where the meeting was held.
Board member Robin Gonzales said the district should educate real estate brokers about the new boundaries as soon as possible, because she has seen some still marketing homes as within the buffer zone, despite the fact the school board voted to eliminate the buffer zone last month.